PH ‘work-hour losses’ worst in Asean amid pandemic
Among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the Philippines’ work force fared poorest in 2020, suffering the “largest working-hour losses’’ caused in part by lockdowns imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a report that while all Asean countries saw their working hours dropping significantly, the Philippines “saw the largest working-hour losses, reaching 13.6 percent.’’
“In contrast, working hours in countries like Thailand, Brunei Darussalam and Lao People’s Democratic Republic dropped by only 4.3 to 4.5 percent,’’ said the ILO in its 11-page report titled “COVID-19 and the Asean Labour Market: Impact and policy response.’’
Asean is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Among the factors that drove the differences in these countries’ working-hour losses were “the ability to control the pandemic as well as the stringency and duration of lockdown measures implemented to curb the spread of the pandemic,” the ILO said.
It said a country’s economic structure also played a role, noting that sectors such as agriculture had been “less vulnerable’’ to the pandemic compared to tourism.
The Philippines, cited for having one of the longest-running lockdowns in the world, has been resorting to stringent quarantine measures, among others, to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, which is now on the upsurge due to its Delta variant.
The National Capital Region is again on enhanced community quarantine, the strictest measure, beginning Aug. 6 until Aug. 20.
The ILO said the working hours lost due to the pandemic “include the reduced hours of those workers that remained in employment but had to reduce their hours as [a] result of the pandemic, as well as those workers that lost their job and moved into either economic inactivity or [were] unemployed.’’
It said Asean’s working-hour losses in 2020 reached 8.4 percent relative to the fourth quarter of 2019—lower than the global losses of 8.8 percent and slightly higher than the 7.9 percent recorded losses in the Asia-Pacific.
“The working hours lost in the region due to the pandemic are equivalent to the working time of about 24 million full-time workers, assuming a 48-hour work week,’’ the ILO said.
In a statement, Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, ILO assistant director general and regional director for Asia and the Pacific, also said the global organization expected working hours in Asean to “only partially recover in 2021 and 2022.’’
“In 2021, Asean is expected to see losses in working hours of 7.4 percent in the baseline scenario and 7 percent and 7.9 percent in the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, respectively, compared to prepandemic levels,’’ Asada-Miyakawa said, adding:
“The region recorded working-hour losses of 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 and 6.2 percent in the second quarter. In the second half of 2021, labor market conditions are expected to deteriorate further due to the ongoing wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The crisis has laid bare the vulnerabilities of the economies and labor markets in the region. With the situation likely to persist for some time, the urgency grows for Asean countries to accelerate the policies and programs that will boost the resilience of enterprises, workers and households and set stronger foundations for decent work for all.”
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